DREAM Act repeal referendum falls short of signatures needed for ballot

A referendum to repeal the California DREAM Act will not appear on the state ballot this November after volunteers working to overturn the act fell short of the 500,000 signatures they needed to gather by Friday.

Assemblymember Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who led efforts to put a repeal referendum up for a vote, announced in a statement Friday that opponents of the act had acquired only 447,514 signatures and therefore could not submit them to state counties for approval.

The act, which allows undocumented students to qualify for state-funded financial aid, has faced opposition ever since it was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. Donnelly filed papers to place the referendum on the ballot two days after the act was signed into law.

But the referendum’s failure may prove to be a significant setback for those hoping to overturn the legislation.

Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who authored the act, said in a statement Friday that he was proud Californians had rejected “the politics of division.”

“Assemblymember Donnelly’s proposal would have taken us in a very negative, destructive and intentionally divisive direction,” he said in the statement. “Like the students that the California Dream Act will help, the voters of California have chosen to look with optimism towards the future.”

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While the act only makes about 500 UC students newly eligible for state-funded financial aid, its supporters believe the relatively minor cost of the act — about $65 million, by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates — is worth the opportunity for undocumented students to receive a college education funded in part by the state.

UC Student Association organizing and communications director Darius Kemp said he was glad efforts to put the referendum on the ballot failed.

“We adamantly and vehemently oppose any repeal of the (state) DREAM act,” he said. “The fact that it failed is a very obvious statement that Californians want the DREAM Act, and they’re happy about it.”

Although the referendum’s failure is no doubt a roadblock for opponents of the act, Donnelly said in his statement that he was confident their efforts will continue.

“We are not finished with this fight,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

Damian Ortellado is the lead higher education reporter.